For a moment, the celebrity appeal of the litigation involving actor Rob Lowe and his former nanny was enhanced tenfold when Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille asked the parties in the Rob Lowe v. Jessica Simpson matter to approach the bench. But the judge, of course, wasn’t calling a case involving the music star, an error that provided a lighter moment for the few members of the audience who picked it up. And so attorneys for Lowe and his former nanny Jessica Gibson took their places at the tables in front of de Bellefeuille with no mention of the gaffe.
After hearing back-and-forth arguments by Lowe attorney Stanton Stein and Gibson attorney John West, de Bellefeuille wasn’t swayed, sticking to her tentative ruling from Wednesday that dismisses some of the allegations Lowe and his wife made against Gibson, as well as a claim by Gibson against the Lowes. The decision means both suits will continue through the court pipeline mostly intact. A settlement conference is scheduled for November 20.
Lowe, after receiving a letter from Gibson threatening to sue, filed a suit of his own in April, alleging defamation, infliction of emotional distress, and a breach of contract. She countered with a lawsuit of her own against the Lowes, saying Lowe violated labor law by sexually harassing her.
Thursday, the judge dismissed Gibson’s claim the Lowes retaliated against her by filing a lawsuit, while dismissing the Lowes’ allegations that they were defamed by Gibson during and after her employment with the family. “The Lowes have not met their burden of showing a probability of prevailing because they have submitted no evidence of any defamatory statements that were not made in anticipation of this litigation,” de Bellefeuille said in her tentative ruling.
Gibson’s attorneys, led by Gloria Allred, agreed with the judge, saying she was protesting her working conditions, not “spreading malicious lies” about them as the suit alleged. Gibson’s activities, Allred said, added up to protected activity as an employee.
All in all, Allred counted the morning up as a 4-1 victory for Gibson. And most importantly, Gibson’s claim of sexual harassment, the “core of our complaint,” is still in play, she said. “She isn’t going to be intimidated by the Lowes and all their money and fame and high-priced cadre of lawyers,” Allred said. “She’s going to prevail.”
The Independent missed Stein leaving the courtroom, and a call to his office is yet to be returned. Celebrity entertainment news Web site TMZ.com quoted Stein as saying, “I’m delighted with the court’s ruling today. It removed the retaliation claim, which Ms. Allred had been focusing on and left in six claims, which allows us to prosecute every claim we’ve made.”